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Old 10-05-2013
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To store halyards or leave on mast?

I live in Massachusetts. It is my first year as a sailboat owner and am in the process of decommissioning for the season. I have heard conflicting suggestions as to whether to leave my halyards attached to the mast for the winter. Some say it's not worth the hassle to remove, others say take them off. The halyards run internally appx 2/3 up to the top of the mast and then down the exterior. My same question also applies to the roller furl line? I did replace that line this summer and that was not that difficult to install. If I do not remove the halyards, should I cover them with a tarp or wrap in plastic? Is there a spray cleaning solution or some kind of spray protectant that could be added? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

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Originally Posted by csharp56 View Post
I live in Massachusetts. It is my first year as a sailboat owner and am in the process of decommissioning for the season. I have heard conflicting suggestions as to whether to leave my halyards attached to the mast for the winter. Some say it's not worth the hassle to remove, others say take them off. The halyards run internally appx 2/3 up to the top of the mast and then down the exterior. My same question also applies to the roller furl line? I did replace that line this summer and that was not that difficult to install. If I do not remove the halyards, should I cover them with a tarp or wrap in plastic? Is there a spray cleaning solution or some kind of spray protectant that could be added? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks
To avoid unnecessary wear and weathering, it is wise to remove the lines by simply attaching the falls to a messenger line and pulling them out of the mast entirely to be re-installed in the spring. (Note which line came out of which sheave when doing so.) Soak/Wash the lines in luke-warm water (not Hot which will stiffen the line) with a little laundry soap and OxyClean and then rinse well with cool fresh water with a little fabric softener. Hang the lines to dry in your garage or basement and then coil neatly (figure of 8 coils) and hang in a spare closet until Spring recommissioning. Winter weather can be very tough on line with soot from heating oil/coal/wood etc. accumulating on the lines which allows moisture to form acids that weaken the line as does repeated freeze thaw cycles to the accumulated moisture in the line. Moreover, mold and mildew can form on/in the line even in very cold conditions. Your call...
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Old 10-05-2013
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

As svHyLyte says, I'm sure it is better for the lines if they are removed. That said, I've never done it, and I don't know anyone up here (northern Lake Superior) who does. We're on fresh water, so perhaps that makes a difference. All I can say is that after over a decade of boat ownership, in a place where our lines our exposed to very harsh winters, I have noticed no significant impact due to winter weathering.

I will be leaving mine up again this year ... actually, I gotta pull my boat soon. Winter's getting too close .
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

A half way measure might be to attach messengers to the halyards, 'sky' them up to the masthead/top sheaves, and put the tails into bags for the winter. Some do that here... even though the boats stay afloat in many cases the usage drops dramatically.

This is most effective with internal halyards, of course, but could be done mast down or still standing (with mast down you won't need the haulback lines)
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Old 10-05-2013
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

I remove most of mine for the 7 months of winter storage (in water). The Seward Harbor experiences lots of harsh wind thru the winter, not at all uncommon to have winds of hurricane force. I remove halyards just to keep the weather from beating them up.

If you use remove the halyards and use messenger lines be sure you route the messenger lines so as to minimize chafe over the winter. If you have internal halyards and the messengers part you'll have the wonderful task of re-routing lines through your mast. (Been there, done that)
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To store halyards or leave on mast?

We remove all running rigging each winter, doubling the lifespan. We wash, dry, coil, and store them in the attic until spring.

I duct tape the tracer line to the good line using a 6-8" long 3/4" strip of quality duct tape. I wrap the tape starting on the good line and spiraling down into the tracer then back up onto the good line so that there is about 3-4" of wrap on each. Then I roll the joint between both palms. Do not force a line that won't freely pass a sheave, work it back and girth until it passes. I've only lost 2 lines in the mast in 25 years and it was totally due to my cutting corners (don't use masking tape!!). Repeat in spring. I can do the whole boat in an hour or so.
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

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Originally Posted by Faster View Post
A half way measure might be to attach messengers to the halyards, 'sky' them up to the masthead/top sheaves, and put the tails into bags for the winter. Some do that here... even though the boats stay afloat in many cases the usage drops dramatically.

This is most effective with internal halyards, of course, but could be done mast down or still standing (with mast down you won't need the haulback lines)
A lot of racers used to do that just to protect the rope from uv damage particularly with tapered halyards where the core is exposed. That way you don't have the hassles of 're running the Halyard in spring. If you want to protect the rope that isn't inside the mast you can just coil it up at the base of the mast and bag it.
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Last edited by SchockT; 10-05-2013 at 09:14 PM.
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

I've been storing my boat with teh mast up in CT for over 15 years. I use 1/8" braided nylon as messengers. All of my running rigging has a loop at the bitter end, so it is simply a matter of securing the messenger ( I use the old trusty bowline). The messengers are labeled with white electrical tape tags to indicate which halyard it replaced.

Soaking the halyards in a bucket with soapy water (Woolite works) and a little bleach will freshen them up for the next season. It is also a good idea to tie off the messengers to minimize mast slap and the wear it produces. Even if you don't tie off the messengers, the mast slap will be much less destructive than the mast slap from the much heavier halyards.

BTW, there is a substantial amount of water that gets down the mast from all the holes that allow the halyards to pass in and out. If you don't seal the holes and have a keel-stepped mast, you might consider manually pumping out the bilge after a winter rain--and before it freezes, assuming you are in a freeze zone. I use a Thirsty Mate pump and a bucket.
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Old 10-06-2013
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A thin messenger line will suffice...but thin line can jump the sheave and wedge next to it, jamming. Either make darn sure you keep it tight or use a thicker messenger.

Its a good idea to stitch lines together with some whipping when pulling one line thru with another. Tape-only works until it doesn't!
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Re: To store halyards or leave on mast?

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Originally Posted by xort View Post
A thin messenger line will suffice...but thin line can jump the sheave and wedge next to it, jamming. Either make darn sure you keep it tight or use a thicker messenger.

Its a good idea to stitch lines together with some whipping when pulling one line thru with another. Tape-only works until it doesn't!
Agree that a thin messenger can jump a sheave, but keeping the messenger-halyard pair under tension will likely prevent that. In 16 years I've never had the 1/8" messengers jump a sheave.

I do agree that taping the messenger to the halyard is a recipe for disaster. I've used the tape method for running wires in a cableway, as it provides for a "fair" transition, but it is a risky technique and doesn't work well with sharp bends.
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